“[We’ll]…blow your front door off the hinges.” – Sheriff Peyton Grinnell

“The Militarization of Policing

The militarization of American policing is a controversial subject. Some say the police have to arm themselves like soldiers so that they can keep up with the threats posed by terrorists and drug gangs. Others maintain that the line that has traditionally separated the police function from the military function has been badly blurred and, as a result, the police are now using confrontational tactics and unnecessary violence. In January 2015 President Obama ordered several changes to the federal programs that provide armored military vehicles and weapons to local police agencies. That order did little to resolve the controversy. The order was criticized from all sides for doing too little and also for going too far. This primer will briefly describe the federal programs that contribute to the militarization trend at the local level and the tactics of paramilitary units in American communities. The primer will conclude with several policy recommendations.”

Suggested Readings:

Adam Andrzejewski and Thomas W. Smith, “The Militarization of America: Non-Military Federal Agencies Purchases of Guns, Ammo, and Military-Style Equipment, Fiscal years 2006-2014 Oversight Study.” June 2016.

“Demilitarizing America’s Police: A Constitutional Analysis,” The Constitution Project, August 2016.

Radley Balko, “Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America,” Cato Institute, July 17, 2006.

Radley Balko, The Rise of the Warrior Cop, PublicAffairs Publishing, 2013.

Peter B. Kraska and Louis J. Cubellis, “Militarizing Mayberry and Beyond: Making Sense of American Paramilitary Policing,” Justice Quarterly, December 1997.

“Recommendations Pursuant to Executive Order 13688 Federal Support for Local Law Enforcement Equipment Acquisition,” White House Law Enforcement Equipment Working Group, May 2015.

“War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing,” American Civil Liberties Union, June 2014.

Diane Cecilia Weber, “Warrior Cops: The Ominous Growth of Paramilitarism in American Police Departments,” Cato Institute, August 26, 1999.

Prepared by Adam Bates.



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